Art is a powerful medium to express our thoughts and emotions. It provides you with comfort, inspiration, energy or even begins healing. Every July, watercolorists come together to celebrate World Watercolor Month and share how this soft, dreamy water-based artwork is an accessible medium for everyone.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Whyte, an American figurative artist internationally renowned for her watercolors including our past exhibition, We The People: Portraits of Veterans in America. She shares with us her inspiration and how art can positively impact the lives of Veterans in our latest Q&A.
Q: Why do you choose to work in watercolor?
A: I prefer watercolor for two reasons: It’s fast and it’s magical. That being said, watercolor is also unpredictable, challenging and is full of surprises. In that way it is very much like life.
Q: How long have you been working in watercolor?
A: I was in ninth grade when I first signed up for a watercolor class at a local art league in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. As I watched the instructor paint I remember inhaling. All these years later I still get the same feeling of excitement when I work in watercolor.
Q: What makes watercolor different than other paints?
A: Almost every artist will tell you how difficult watercolor is to master, largely because it is the only medium that relies strictly on timing. The beauty of watercolor pigments are that they are more transparent, which can give the final result a beautiful luminosity. I love watercolor especially for painting portraits and the translucent quality of skin.
Q: Was there a particular watercolor artist that inspired you?
A: Back in the 70’s when I was learning watercolor there was no online video instruction or web access to see what other artists were creating. I learned by going to museums and libraries, and by studying the works of artists I admired like Wyeth, Sargent and Homer. I would try to emulate their methods, and little by little I improved.
Q: What did you learn from the Veterans you painted in We the People: Portraits of Veterans in America?
A: I met so many amazing Veterans over the seven years I spent traveling to all fifty states. From them I learned three significant life lessons. The first lesson I learned is the value of committing to a cause greater than self. The second lesson I learned is to never let fear stop you. And lastly, the third lesson I learned is that art and freedom are the same. You cannot have one without the other. All of these I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Q: How do art programs facilitate mental wellness and increase social connectedness within the Veteran community?
A: I believe that the medical and scientific community is just beginning to understand the significance of art and the positive impact it can have. Studies have shown that the process of creating art has therapeutic benefits, and is a viable means to facilitate self expression. Through the Patriot Art Foundation’s classes in painting and drawing we are able to give Veterans a means of expression through art as well as a sense of purpose and connection.
Q: What is your most memorable story with the Patriot Art Foundation?
A: Through the Foundation’s curriculum, I have seen Veterans make remarkable progress in both their art as well as their self esteem. During one of our classes an Air Force Veteran reported that after she left the military she was unable to talk. It wasn’t until she learned how to paint that she was finally able to open up. She is a good example of how art tells our common story and connects us.
Did you know?
Our Museum Exchange and online store sells an exclusive holiday keepsake ornament drawn by Mary Whyte and crafted by a locally Veteran-owned business.